Trendsetters are building up the far West Village, proving there’s still more to discover in one of the city’s most iconic—and familiar—neighborhoods.
“It was like a home away from home—cozy and warm,” says Claire Chan of the West Village, where she opened her café, The Elk (128 Charles St.), in 2014. Chan, a former womenswear buyer for Bergdorf Goodman, swapped models for macchiatos, and now her chic espresso joint, like so many other beloved West Village operations, has the feel of a neighborhood clubhouse (no doubt the menu by Top Chef star Sam Talbot also helps draw in the downtowners).
Her adoptive home is one of Manhattan’s best-known neighborhoods, a shorthand for arty sophistication and charming, tree-lined streets. The Elk, though, is located on its farthest western reaches, tucked close to both the water and the West Side Highway. Until recently, these streets were somewhat windswept and bare. Thanks to energetic entrepreneurs, the far West Village is emerging as its own distinctive scene.
Take Kerrilynn Palmer, a pioneer in this micro-’hood who opened her natural beauty boutique, CAP Beauty (238 W. 10th St.), a decade ago; she cites the lure of the Hudson River. “The water is what makes the neighborhood so unbelievably beautiful and filled with light,” she explains. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner is another far west booster. He first ventured here several years ago via his Mittel-European fine dining spot, Wallsé (344 W. 11th St.), and has since expanded his local empire with a new cocktail bar and café, Upholstery Store (713 Washington St.).
The West Village’s covetable brownstones.
The ambition to revitalize the last cobweb-laden corners of the neighborhood has likewise inspired the Naftali Group, as evidenced in its latest development, The Shephard (275 W. 10th St., 212-995-1010), on the corner of West 10th and Washington Streets. The concept reimagines a one-time dockside warehouse, a redbrick and granite testament to the neighborhood’s past. Working with the local design studio of John and Christine Gachot, the developers created 38 apartments, including three penthouses. They filled the development with custom amenities: an indoor half-basketball court, a garden filled with trees, and a library with shelves curated by art publisher Assouline.
“You can get lost in those apartments,” laughs Matt van Damm, Naftali Group’s head of marketing and design—“and in our city, space truly is luxury.” A longtime local, van Damm takes a particular interest in this project. “It really is still a village—you know the shopkeepers, cobbler, the local barber. The woman who owned the small grocery store near my home gave me flowers when my son was born.”
Locals like Claire Chan echo that story. “There’s such an appeal for families—the proximity to the Hudson River, the great schools,” she says. “There’s a sense of calm when wandering this neighborhood, and in Manhattan ‘calm’ is a rare find.”